February 2020 | In This Issue

Kinship Caregivers and the Child Welfare System

A number of grandparents and other relatives care for children whose own parents are unable to care for them. Sometimes, the arrangement (referred to as "kinship care") is an informal, private arrangement  between the parents and relative caregivers; in other situations, the local child welfare agency is involved. This factsheet is designed to help kinship caregivers--including grandparents, aunts and uncles, other relatives, and family friends caring for children--work effectively with the child welfare system. Resources, such as links to more detailed information or places to find help, are included.

Angelette Update


We are excited to share the progress and even more thrilled to share this site for service well into the future. What a great legacy! Thank you!

157 CASA volunteers served 327 children in January and helped find safe, permanent homes for 12 of those children. 169 children are still waiting for someone to be their voice.
Congratulations to Dusti and Nick on their recent adoption! A very special thank you to their CASA Volunteer, Tami Labonne (far left).

After spending 23 months in foster care, Blayze, Bailey, Londyn, and Lyric now have their forever home with their grandfather, Glenn Williams. Thank you to Judge Jason Verdigets and to their CASA Roylena Humphries in the 23rd JDC, St. James Parish.

Upcoming Training Dates:

Livingston - March 12th
Tangipahoa - March 12th
Ascension, Assumption, and St. James - March 16th
St. Charles and St. John - May 5th (tentative)
 Recruiters' Corner 

Service looks different to everyone. For some, it's volunteering at a local shelter or donating food so parents can have something to feed their children at night. For others, it may be giving a ride to a doctor's appointment or raking leaves for someone who can't do it themselves. The list may go on for ways to serve the community in which we live and make a difference in someone's life. One opportunity that some may not be aware of is to walk alongside a child in foster care as they navigate the Court system by be coming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). A CASA is a community volunteer who is trained to advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system. There is a need for individuals to be the voice for children. If you are interested or would like more information about this opportunity to change a child's story, contact one of our recruiters by clicking here .

8 Long-Term Health Benefits 
of Volunteering

The impact of volunteerism can be felt in communities of all shapes and sizes. No matter the size of the community, though, the impact of volunteerism is always huge.

Wherever it occurs, volunteering exists to help others. But volunteerism's best-kept secret is this: it's good for you, too. We did some digging to find out all the reasons why volunteering rocks.

  Click here to learn about the 8 long-term health benefits of volunteering.

Congratulations to Sherry Metrejean! Sherry was recently sworn into the 23rd JDC by 
Judge Jerome Barbera. Pictured above are Carol, Advocate Supervisor Veronica London, and Judge Carmichael.

Congratulations to Carol White! Carol was recently sworn-in by Judge William Carmichael.

The 23rd JDC welcomes new volunteer Brandi Miller who was sworn in on January 21, 2020 by Judge Tess Stromberg. Brandi has already hit the ground running with her new case. Congratulations Brandi.

Barbara Vidacovich
Florida Parishes

This month, we recognize Barbara Vidacovich for her outstanding advocacy and commitment to the children she serves. Mrs. Barbara has been a CASA Volunteer since 2018. She has served on 4 cases with a total of 10 children since her swearing-in and is currently serving 3 active cases.  Her first case ended in reunification with the parents after working diligently to help the parents and children grow their relationship. She is currently serving on a case with a teenager who lives out of state. She makes phone contact with the child monthly and has done a great job having the child open up to her. Not only has Mrs. Barbara made a lasting impression on all of the children and families she has served with her warm and welcoming personality, but she does perfect court reports and is an
 OPTIMA rock star

When Mrs. Barbara was asked why she became a CASA Volunteer, she stated "Growing up I had support from the community and I said when I was older, I wanted to be that support for other people." She also stated she enjoys knowing she is really making a difference being a CASA.
We are thankful to have Mrs. Barbara as a CASA Advocate. 

Thank you, Mrs. Barbara, for your dedication to change lives for the better.

Melissa  Weimer
River Parishes

This month, the 23rd JDC would like to recognize Melissa Weimer for her outstanding advocacy and commitment to her CASA children. Melissa was sworn in on January 16, 2018 and was assigned her first case. During Melissa's advocacy, she has served on cases with multiple children and makes sure that they have a safe and permanent home. Her first CASA child was reunited with the mother and she recently was able to attend the adoption of her second CASA child. Melissa is now serving on a case in which the child has been placed in an adoptive home in North Louisiana.

Melissa became a CASA Volunteer to help children and make sure their voice is heard. She said that the most enjoyable thing about being a CASA is watching the children learn and grow as they go through the foster care process, whether they are reunited with their family or if they are adopted. Thank you, Melissa, for your dedication and passion to ensure all your children have a voice.

Optima Notes and Communication with Your Supervisor
Why Is This Important?

It seems that one of the most frustrating things for CASA Volunteers and Advocate Supervisors is the paperwork.   Most of our CASA Volunteers go above and beyond the call of duty in visiting their assigned children, getting case updates from DCFS, observing parent visits, talking to parents about their progress, getting school reports, getting provider reports, and all of the many job duties of monitoring your CASA case. You also do a great job in keeping us (the Advocate Supervisors) informed and discussing what action steps are needed to further advocate for the children you are assigned to. We are, however, having some breakdowns in getting the necessary documentation back to us in your monthly Contact Logs and getting those logs submitted in timely manner. The following information will provide you with insight regarding exactly what we need to capture, why we need the information, and some tips to keep you on track with keeping the notes necessary to complete your final report.

Remember to keep your CASA Volunteer file up-to-date with your current
auto insurance card, driver's license, and contact information
And remember to visit your CASA child face-to-face at least   once a month.

Stewards of Children is a revolutionary sexual abuse prevention training program that educates adults to prevent, recognize, and react responsibly to child sexual abuse. The program believes and teaches that child safety is an adult's job. Stewards of Children is designed for organizations that serve children and youth. Child Advocacy Services has trained facilitators that can offer this course to your organization for only $10.00 per individual. This fee includes your materials, certificate for 2 hours of continuing education, and assists CAS in continuing our services for children through our CASA and CAC Programs.

Contact us at 800-798-1575 for information on scheduling a training or click on the link below to register for an upcoming training. Each of the trainings below will be held at the
 Charles E. Cate Teacher Education Center 
1300 N General Pershing St.,  Room 1022
Hammond, LA 70401
Friday, March 20, 2020 - 9:00 AM
Thursday, April 16, 2020 - 4:30 PM

Note to our CASA Volunteers: This training is offered to all CASAs free of charge. When registering online, please select "pay at door." You will receive your materials at the door.


Not a #Number is an interactive, five-module prevention curriculum designed to teach youth how to protect themselves from human trafficking and exploitation through information, critical thinking, and skill development. Not a #Number uses a holistic approach focusing on respect, empathy, individual strengths, and the relationship between personal and societal pressures that create or increase vulnerabilities. Appropriate for ages 12-18.
Not a #Number Caregiver's Guide: This resource guide includes information to help you understand the reality of human trafficking, and most importantly, what you can do to safeguard your youth and others in your community. This resource guide can be given to caregivers or can be presented in a one hour presentation.

For more information on Not a #Number, contact Jordyn G'sell, Prevention Services Coordinator, at  (985) 785-5226 or jgsell@childadv.net.

In January, the Children's Advocacy Center provided advocacy and forensic interviews to 48 children. In the River Region, 25 children and families were provided 61 hours of counseling.

Prevention Patrol 
Help Boost Kids' Safety, Privacy, and Security

When kids start to go online, whether they're playing multiplayer games, using educational apps, or just following their curiosity on Google, it's important that they understand the basics of online privacy and safety. With some general guidelines around what information is and isn't OK to share, and some help from parents when they're unsure, kids can have fun and learn a lot in the digital world.

Interested in a prevention training? Contact Jordyn G'sell at jgsell@childadv.net for requests and scheduling!
Child Advocacy Services welcomes three new staff to serve children!

Kathy Cusimano, Prevention Services Coordinator

Kathy has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from Southeastern Louisiana University.  Kathy has been married for 25 years and has two amazing sons, Alex and Zack.  She enjoyed many years in the classroom and being an advocate for her students.  Mentoring, coaching, training, and coalition work have been woven throughout her career.  "Bringing awareness and knowledge to our community with compassion and care is the greatest way to create a safer environment for our families and children to thrive. I feel privileged and blessed beyond measure to be a part of our CAS team and working with you to serve our precious children."

Jill Johnson, Advocate Supervisor

Jill has a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a post-graduate Certificate in Paralegal Studies from the University of New Orleans. Jill served as a CASA in Assumption Parish for over four years before transitioning to the position of Advocate Supervisor. "I'm very excited to continue advocating for children in our community in my new role."

Amy Onxley, Forensic Interviewer

Amy is from Austin, Texas and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. She has over a decade of experience working with individuals and families dealing with the effects of violence. She moved to Louisiana in 2009 and welcomed a precious son in 2012. Her passion to serve children and families brought her to Child Advocacy Services and she is excited to begin her new role as a Forensic Interviewer. "I feel like I have been welcomed into a family of fellow staff members who have the same goal of serving children and working to protect our most treasured population." 

We worked with the 4th graders at DC Reeves Elementary School in Ponchatoula to host our annual children's art work contest. We visited the students and shared our Recognize, React, Report resource  with them. Each student completed an original piece of art depicting what they learned and we held an art contest to select the top 13 pieces to be featured in our 2020 CAS Calendar. Congratulations to our winners!  We look forward to distributing the calendar soon!

Thank you to PerkinElmer and Best Corporate Events for inviting us to their "Fostering Hope" event to accept a donation of backpacks stuffed with school supplies and hygiene products. We are excited to share these items with children that are served through our CASA program! 

Brave children tell their stories. Courageous adults help these children through their trauma and assist them in finding a safe future.  Buttons of Bravery represent the journey of one child for a year under the care of  Child Advocacy Services. 

Help hold them together through their experience by participating in the 
Buttons of Bravery Child Sponsorship Program. 

Thank you to our new and/or continuing Buttons of Bravery Child Sponsors. 

Rob & Sally Carlisle *
CH Specialty *
Crossroads Behavioral Health *
Melissa Laird
David and Judith Landry *
Celeste Layrisson *
Oak Point Fresh Market
Becky Powell *

* denotes a recurring monthly donor

Thank you to Worley for their generosity and support of services for children in our community! Employees at Worley collected and donated Christmas gifts for children served through our CASA program and the company recently presented CAS with a monetary donation as a match for the gifts they collected! Thank you!
Threading Hope

When a child visits Child Advocacy Services, they select a button from a jar. This is a very personal selection because this button represents them. It tells their story. These stories are raw, emotional, and heart wrenching. The button selection may take a long time. They are asked to leave a button to help other children see they are not alone.

The buttons in the jars pictured above represent 4,785 children served by the Children's Advocacy Center since 2012. Like buttons, children come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And they all need a secure thread to hold them tightly and let them know there is hope.

Child Advocacy Services is working on an exciting project, Threading Hope, which will invite everyone to join CAS in giving children a voice, a sense of security, and help with healing. You can be the thread of hope. We can't wait to share more! Stay tuned!

Dear Community Supporter,

CAS served 557 children with 212 volunteers through our CASA program in 2019. Of those children, 205 were placed in safe and permanent homes. Additionally, we performed 662 forensic interviews and provided 663 hours of counseling to 116 children and families through our CAC program. 

Child Advocacy Services, Inc. is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. We appreciate your consideration to start or renew your child sponsorship for 2019.  Please remember your contribution is tax-deductible .
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